Published: 12:40PM BST 24 Oct 2010
Allegations of killings, torture and abuse in Iraq contained in leaked US military logs posted by WikiLeaks, must be properly examined, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, has said.
Mr Clegg, who has previously said he believes the Iraq war was ''illegal'', said it was up to the US administration to answer for the actions of its forces.
And he did not rule out the possibility of an inquiry into the actions of British forces in Iraq.
His comments contrasted with a statement yesterday by the Ministry of Defence, which warned that the posting of 400,000 classified US military logs on the WikiLeaks website could endanger the lives of British forces
''We can bemoan how these leaks occurred, but I think the nature of the allegations made are extraordinarily serious. They are distressing to read about and they are very serious,'' he told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.
''I am assuming the US administration will want to provide its own answer. It's not for us to tell them how to do that.''
Asked if there should be an inquiry into the role of British troops, he said: I think anything that suggests that basic rules of war, conflict and engagement have been broken or that torture has been in any way condoned are extremely serious and need to be looked at.''
He added: ''People will want to hear what the answer is to what are very, very serious allegations of a nature which I think everybody will find quite shocking.''
According to WikiLeaks, the logs included details of 15,000 previously unrecorded civilian deaths in Iraq, and showed that US troops routinely overlooked the torture and abuse of detainees by Iraqi forces.
Last night, the Ministry of Defence said the website had been reckless and was putting the lives of British military personnel in danger.
In a statement, the MoD said: ''We condemn any unauthorised release of classified material.
''This can put the lives of UK service personnel and those of our allies at risk and make the job of Armed Forces in all theatres of operation more difficult and more dangerous.
''It would be inappropriate to speculate on the specific detail of these documents without further investigation while the Iraq Inquiry is ongoing.
''There is no place for mistreatment of detainees and we investigate any allegation made against our troops.''
The Guardian, which has examined the files in detail, said it found only two cases alleging the involvement of British troops in the abuse of detainees.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said the Lib Dems felt "vindicated" by the allegations but he criticised the way in which they were leaked.
He told Sky News Sunday Live: "The Liberal Democrats were strong opponents of the Iraq war and we do feel vindicated by what's happening.
"But the way in which the leaks happened, which has indeed - potentially by exposing people's identity - put lives at risk, is not a responsible way of doing it.
"But long before these facts were revealed, we were convinced the Iraq war was a mistake and we were right in our original judgment."
Mr Cable added: "I think there have been several investigations already but I think, clearly, if there have been abuses taking place they need to be investigated - that's obvious enough."
He said the Iraq war had had "very, very damaging side effects" and many innocent people had been killed.